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Konkani Delights

A carnival of coastal cuisine awaits gourmets at Beverly Hills

Konkani Delights
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Kai pahije

Situated in Andheri East, off the Western Express Highway, Beverly Hills has become the newest lunching pad of the stars and the scribes, earning rave reviews for its culinary performance. After Shyam Benegal, the gourmet who often disguises himself as filmmaker par excellence, caught a piping plateful at this joint, there were no bones to be picked. Except, perhaps, for the tell-tale remains of daintily devoured fish. Admitted Benegal: "Boss, I hand it to you. This is like eating at home." Home in this case could either be Goa, Mangalore or the Malvan—for under this one roof, food from these three regions cohabit in sumptuous harmony.

An 80-seater bar and restaurant, Beverly Hills also serves Indian and Chinese food—not much to talk about here, much less write home about. Then the new duo comprising manager M.A. Kulkarni and chef Sunit Pai, formerly from the Taj, hit upon an idea: why not a Konkani food festival to coincide with Suresh Kalmadi's Konkan Railway and the Konkani convention held in Mangalore. The dates were laid out—from November 15 to November 30—so was the food, and the food freaks were eating out of their hands. The idea went down more than well, and Beverly Hills which was history till recently, is now making it big with its mouth-watering menu. The festival has become an ongoing affair and intends to stay that way—the fishing nets, the serenading singer, and the Konkan cut-outs have been dropped post-fest, but not one item from the menu.

'Surwat' or starters comprise, among other things, the all-time favourites—sol kadhi, a kokum and herb flavoured coconut milk and saar, a cumin seed-flavoured tomato broth garnished with coconut. For those who believe that spice is the variety of life, the main course includes real hot stuff—kombadi rassa ani vade (chicken and halved eggs in a brown gravy served with puri-like vadas made of urad-rice flour), Goan tiger prawn masala, machchi tukdi (fish smeared with rawa and fried in Malvani style), sungtachi hinga kodi (prawns in a spicy coconut curry), mutton xacutti and more. And godshe or desserts has a crisp and concise offering in the form of panpole ras (lace handkerchief like pancakes smothered in sweetened coconut milk), goda pole (pancakes with coconut and jaggery stuffing) and olya narlachi karanji (a crescent-shaped dumpling filled with sweet, fresh coconut).

So what's in it for those who like licking green fingers? "A lot of the Gowdi Saraswat Brahmins are vegetarians. It is a misconception that Konkan food is only fish and is the exclusive domain of the non-veggies," says Kulkarni. There's the tendli kaju upkari (tendlis cooked with cashews and red chillies minus gravy), batata song (potatoes in a sour onion gravy), amti (tomatoes, radish or drumsticks in a green chilli-flavoured dal) and kholombo (spicy dal with vegetables) to mention a chosen few.

Easy to get hooked onto are sol kadhi, the goda pole, the Goan tiger prawn masala and the kombada rassa ani vade. On the line are also sinkers like the kholombo, which had a polythene-packed spices flavour. When it comes to the net worth in terms of the price and packaging, it's a fare deal. The uninitiated could land up with a Malvani starter, a Goan main course and a Manga-lorean dessert. That, given the quality of the food, can be considered a coastal carnival.

The decor is incongruous—neither Beverly Hills, nor Konkan. Inane table mats pose brain teasers like 'Help Madonna find her way to Beverly Hills'. If you are lucky, you may even bump into Laxman Shreshta, Ashok Kurien, Nitish Bharadwaj, Tiku Tulsania, Vivek Vaswani, Anjana Mumtaz and Romu Sippy while helping Madonna find her way through the maze.

And if you're really lucky, you won't have to wait an hour-and-a-half till your stomach singes for want of service and supper.

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